Report: 1 in 50 Passengers Will Find Love on an Airplane

The Mile High Club is over 100 years old. The very first couple to try it were using a Curtiss Flying Boat C‑2 off Long Island. The woman was cheating on her husband who was serving abroad in World War I. They managed to disengage the autopilot while engaged in their congress, sending the plane into the water. They were found naked by duck hunters.

Now passengers use the lavatory. Virgin Atlantic once claimed they had to replace baby changing tables as a result. (Really they were just trying to suggest their flights are so awesome people have sex on them, the claim about the baby changing tables was likely apocryphal.)

Inflight coupling doesn’t usually go that far, but it does happen all the time. Earlier this year I witnessed what may have been a world record hookup in the air, introduction-to-couple on a 140 mile Austin – Houston United flight.

One new study argues that 1 in 50 people find love on an airplane. And if you take the survey as correct the way it’s being reported that would mean that on an Emirates high density Airbus A380 without first class (615 seats) twelve people are falling in love per flight. And if you assume two people per couple (don’t assume!) that would be six new couples on each segment.

In fact the survey of 2,150 people across 141 countries (and a companion survey of 6000 people) doesn’t suggest that 1 in 50 people actually meet someone on each flight, the questioning doesn’t appear that specific or verified. It seems thinking it could happen on a plane may be enough, and certainly not on every flight but rather across all of their flights.

It’s not that 2% of passengers are hooking up on each high density American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX (though the airline’s Project Oasis does promote closeness!). Instead I think it just tells us that two percent of flyers are optimists.

The piece by HSBC finds “one in seven fliers makes a lasting friendship while flying while 16% add a new business connection to their network.” And,

  • 48% oppose passengers taking off their shoes. I just think we shouldn’t have to see male toes, and that feet don’t belong on seats or bulkheads and you really shouldn’t clip your toenails in public.

  • 65% are bothered when passengers are rude to flight attendants. What is wrong with the other 35???

  • 37% are frustrated with other passengers hogging overhead bins, but their frustration should be with airlines who incentivize passengers to bring everything onboard and then don’t provide large enough overheads.

  • 32% think other passengers shouldn’t use the arm rest so that they can. What would Kant say about that?

  • Other pet peeves are people falling asleep on their should and snoring.

Some people like to talk to strangers on a plane and others do not. Those that do get something out of it — the chance of a connection of some kind — and those that don’t get something out of it too, peace and quiet, as long as there’s no baby crying, no one falling asleep on you or intruding into your personal space, and you’re not getting hit on by your seatmate.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. While it did not lead to immediate inflight romance, I met my person 24 years ago on a plane. Anecdata!

  2. One more anecdote. One of my best high school buddies married someone he met on a plane. He also used to go to airport bars to meet women – pre- 9/11.

  3. 65% are bothered when passengers are rude to flight attendants. What is wrong with the other 35???

    Nothing is wrong with them. They subscribe to a different belief system. Western cultures do not allow the customer to talk down to service workers, but others do.

  4. I once had a “thick” lady fall asleep and her meaty arm kept falling on my chest. Most uncomfortable…..

  5. My brother met his wife (30+ years) on a Hawaiian Island hopper – so even short flights can make a connection

  6. Holding hands on descent isn’t joining the Mile High Club.

    You have to ejaculate inside her vagina in the business class Cathay Pacific cabin lavatory while drinks are being served. There’s no greater feeling than seeing your drink waiting for you when you return to your seat.

  7. I’ve done it on a MCO-BOS flight. 8 years ago. Two guys. Neither of us appeared to be married or had kids. I was in 4A and other guy was in 4D. I opened the notepad on my phone and wrote a random flattering message to the unknown guy, something about him “being really handsome be a strong presence, and I would like to get to know him more if he was available””

    I tapped him on the shoulder across the aisle, and asked if he can take a look at my phone when in handed it to him at the same time. He took the phone look down and read the message paused for a full 20 seconds probably to read it again and figure out if I was serious. Then looked at me, and then back at the phone, and then back at me. He reached into his pocket and took out a business card, and returned it with the phone back across the aisle. I wandered up texting him the next day and week went out and had dinner. I’ll leave the rest of your imagination.

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